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[Sticky] What is your current PC config?

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Bullwinkle
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Darkone wrote:
SSD drive ... the price on them now is just a wee bit to high for my blood.

Don't feel as though you are missing anything huge. SSD drives are only fast at searching. Transfer rates are 30-100x faster for SATA disk drives. Also, SSD's have a finite number of read-write cycles, so you know from the start that your expensive SSD drive will eventually fail (although maybe not much sooner than your disk drive).

SSD's are awesome for things like tiny laptops or netbooks because they boot quickly, are low-power, and are fantastically rugged compared to a disk drive. But, overall, SSD's are slower than disk drives in general-purpose use.

I think I read somewhere that you build your own boxes, so maybe the following perspective will help. Use your SSD drive for your system drive, which typically experiences many seeks against many small files. For swap space and any large kind of data (ie, games), use a hard disk.

With that perspective in mind, you could do a proof-of-concept by using a flash drive rather than an SSD for your system drive. An SSD is just a flash drive with an SATA interface, so it will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from a future SSD. A $20 flash drive is big enough for Windows, as long as you put swap space, programs, and data elsewhere.

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Shant
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Wow I can't believe that...I thought the whole point of SSD was speed and to eliminate moving parts so as to last longer. If they're slower than SATA and they're gonna break down around the same time, and they're many times the price per GB...what incentive is there to buy them??


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Bullwinkle
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Shant wrote:
Wow I can't believe that...I thought the whole point of SSD was speed and to eliminate moving parts so as to last longer. If they're slower than SATA and they're gonna break down around the same time, and they're many times the price per GB...what incentive is there to buy them??

Well, there are some terrific advantages to SSD's for some applications. For those jobs, they probably are worth the extra cost. But SSD's are not better in every way than hard drives... not even close.

Think about using a phone book (remember those big paper things that people had before Switchboard and Google?). It takes a certain amount of time to find a name that you are looking for, and a different amount of time to copy the phone number, address, etc. If you use a photocopier then you can speed up the copy part of the job but you don't speed up the lookup part.

Similarly, disk drives have two major kinds of speed that approximately summarize their performance: Seek Time (lookup) and Transfer Rate (copy time). There are other specs of interest, but those are the two most popular.

SSD's are perhaps 100x faster than disk drives at Seek Time. Even faster than that in some cases.

Hard drives are 100x faster than SSD's at Transfer Rate (sometimes more).

So, sure, SSD's are very fast at some tasks. Other tasks perform better on hard disks.

Boot performance is, by and large, a non-issue for big computers. They stay on all the time, so it usually doesn't matter if they take several minutes to boot. Some servers take 10 minutes or more to boot, but they get booted perhaps a dozen times a year.

However, boot performance is a HUGE issue for portable devices like, say, a phone. If your phone took more than a second or two to wake up, you would not be happy, right? Laptops are in between -- people who carry them around a lot like to put them in standby or hibernation mode and want them to be able to wake up quickly. SSD's are good at that part -- the waking up or booting.

On the other hand, for large multimedia jobs, database work, games, and other tasks that work with large files, a hard disk's superior transfer rate will blow the socks off of any SSD.

A few years ago, the life span of flash memory was an issue. Now they are good for millions of read/write cycles, which is not so bad. But there is more to reliability than lifetime. A hard disk, for example, can read and write until it dies of old age or damage. And therein is the key to SSD's advantage -- they are not as vulnerable to damage as hard disks. Hard disks are quickly destroyed by heat (which they generate a lot of) and shock. Shock is common for laptops, like dropping your laptop or even bumping it while it is writing to disk.

SSD's are nearly invulnerable to shock. They are vulnerable to heat, but they do not generate as much heat as a hard drive, so they have less trouble with heat.

Also, SSD's can be MUCH smaller than a disk drive for the same capacity. It's just a couple of chips, after all.

So SSD's are fast at boot/waking up, rugged, cool, low-power, and small. All of those factors are good in portable applications.

But SSD's will not be replacing your disk drive for your gaming computer anytime soon.

B


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Shant
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It boggles my mind that SATA drives transfer data 100x faster than SSD. I thought the whole reason hard drives took as long as they did to transfer data was because of the...for lack of better term 'manual' way it works. What exactly is it that prevents SSD drives from transferring at the same/faster clip? Will they catch up to or surpass hard drives eventually?

I've been of the opinion that hard drives have been seriously lagging in terms of advancement behind other components. I build my own rigs as well, but prior to this computer the last time I'd built one was around 99 or 2000. Didn't do any gaming with it ofcourse. it had a standard ata hard drive in it. Extremely slow compared to today's drives...on paper anyway. When I built this new rig several months ago, I put the fastest available SATA drives in it and naturally was expecting a big boost in the data transfer department. Honestly, I can't tell any difference. Moving a couple gigs from one drive to another, or from one part of the same drive to another, still takes a few minutes like my old computer did.

I was looking forward to SSD drives really advancing the ball in that department. Guess I was wrong.


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Bullwinkle
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Shant wrote:
It boggles my mind that SATA drives transfer data 100x faster than SSD....

I thought ... hard drives took as long as they did ... because of the ... 'manual' way it works.

What exactly is it that prevents SSD drives from transferring at the same/faster clip?

Will they catch up to or surpass hard drives eventually?

Short Version: Look at RAID 0 (or 0+1) rather than SSDs for a major performance boost.

Long Version: Back in the days when supercomputers were the size of a tractor trailer, there were folks who advised, "Never trust a computer that you can see over the top of." 🙂 In those days, there was a lot of talk about the difference between "cpu speed" and computer "throughput". Nobody talks about it that way anymore, but the concepts still hold. There are many different parts of a computer, and the overall throughput of the machine is dictated by the bottlenecks caused by the slowest individual components.

Hard drives have evolved at a pretty good clip. The second IBM PC -- not even the first -- had a 5 megabyte disk drive that cost several hundred bucks. Now you can buy a terabyte drive (a million times larger) for under $99. Speeds are way up, too... but so is the size of the data that you move around. If you take a closer look at the number of megabytes per second that you transfer between drives, I'll bet that you are moving many more bytes now than you did a few years ago.

In fact, disk drives became so fast that their transfer rates exceeded the fastest rate that the old parallel ATA bus (16 parallel wires) could handle. The limiting factor was the speed of sending an electrical signal (reliably) through the wires themselves! It's sort of a long topic, but wires do not transmit electricity at the speed of light... and several wires together may have different speeds, so there were a lot of electronics involved in splitting up bits across multiple wires and then putting them back together at the other end. Electronics can be pretty fast, but there are still limits. In order to keep controller costs down, it was necessary to develop a new technology, which turned into the Serial ATA "bus" (kinda-sorta-one wire, plus a couple more for power and control signals).

SSD "drives" are just memory with an SATA controller so that they can be used in place of a disk drive without any other changes to the computer. Most of the SSD drives that you hear about use flash memory. Flash memory is far cheaper than the RAM that does most of the calculation work in a computer, which makes it economical to consider using flash instead of a hard disk for some applications. Flash memory also does not require power to hold it's memory state, so you can turn off the power and not lose your information, just like a disk drive.

Although flash is cheaper than RAM, it is not nearly as fast. To fully explain why takes me about an afternoon -- I actually teach a class on this. But the short version is that a bit of flash memory is much larger than a bit of RAM, and size roughly equals speed in semiconductors. Smaller = Faster.

You are partially correct in that the mechanical nature of disk drives limits their Seek performance. So, yes, SSD's are much faster in that department. But hard drives are very, very fast at reading and writing a lot of data. SSD's will not surpass hard drives in performance or cost for handling large amounts of data anytime soon. Eventually we will run into physical limits regarding the size and speed of our current idea of semiconductors. That will lead to new technologies, and it is hard to guess what will happen to performance and cost then. It is conceivable that, 100 years from now, solid state memories might become more economical than hard drives. But it won't happen until some major technology shift.

There is more to the story... SSDs are faster at reading than they are at writing, for example. Again, that makes them better for things like the operating system, which doesn't change rapidly compared to data. But anything that requires saving lots of memory will be much faster on a hard drive.

Solid-state drives can be made that are much faster than a disk drive, but not with flash memory. A battery-backed RAM drive can do the job, but an 8GB RAM drive costs something like $600, compared to 1,000GB of disk for $100.

But even a RAM drive is not all that much faster than a hard disk in most applications because it is limited by the performance of the SATA bus. So you spend a ton of money for a minuscule amount of drive space that loses its memory when it loses power, and you still don't get a huge performance increase. 🙁

You are also correct in thinking that disk performance is a major bottleneck in today's computers. So, if you really want to speed up your disk drives, the way to do it is RAID 0 (or 0+1 if you want both speed and reliability). RAID 0 uses two or more identical disk drives in a way that splits up read and write across the drives. This has several advantages, but one obvious advantage is that it divides the transfer across two or more SATA channels, thereby multiplying the throughput of the array. This improves performance dramatically. It turns out that modern motherboards are approximately as fast as two SATA channels, so two drives in your array is all you need for a low-cost performance improvement.

In other words, you can buy two 1-TB drives for $100 each and make a 2-TB array that is nearly double the throughput of a single hard drive. Server versions of Windows have RAID software built in, so that's all you need -- just two disk drives -- to double your performance. It's a sweet deal. With XP/Vista/Win7 you will need to add either software or a RAID card complete the job, but they are cheap these days, too. I wouldn't be surprised if there is open-source RAID software, although I have never looked.

The bottom line is that SSDs are not the answer to overall disk performance, but the cheapest possible RAID configuration is.

B


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Shant
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Bullwinkle wrote:

Short Version: Look at RAID 0 (or 0+1) rather than SSDs for a major performance boost.

B

Yeah, I've got 2 500g SATAs in the computer and I was tempted to make a raid array but I put redundancy/insurance well above speed...as much as I love speed. Hard drives fail all the time. I lost 10 years of mp3s, classical music performances that I'll never be able to find again because an ata drive died on me less than 2 weeks after purchased. Part of the reason I was so looking forward to SSD. I'm assuming defective drives out of the box are much more rare with SSD, no?

I'd built a raid array on my old computer, and perhaps things have changed now, but at the time if one drive failed, your data's gone. Is that still the case? I do realize, ofcourse, that the solution would just be to get another drive and keep that one to backup the raid array. I'll definitely do that eventually because you're right, that's a cheap way to damn near double the speed. You can't beat that.

Bullwinkle wrote:
If you take a closer look at the number of megabytes per second that you transfer between drives, I'll bet that you are moving many more bytes now than you did a few years ago.

B

I'd considered this possibility, but you have to remember that I didn't transition from my old crappy computer to this top of the line one gradually. I built the new one and literally in 6 hours I went from one to the other. So I was in a very good position to see the contrast between old and cutting edge hardware. The result? I was very surprised in general at just how subtle the increases were. Only the graphics department gave me the type of boost I was expecting from a decade's worth of advancement. To give an idea, it took me about 30-35 minutes to convert an mpeg movie to DVD. Now it takes about 7-8 minutes. I suppose another decade and I'll be able to shave 15 seconds off my startup time...

Specifically pertaining to hard drive performance, I ran data transfer tests on my old system's hard drives. I had several hard drives in it, 2 of which were striped RAID 0. The newest non raid drive transferred at around 50MB/sec. The raid array transferred at 80mb/sec, so you're right it's nearly double the speed. I really should run the same test on my new system, it'll be fun to test your theory. On paper my new drives are supposed transfer data 6 times faster than my old drives. I'm betting it's well less than double.

hmmm...I can't find that utility at the moment...do you know of a simple HD data transfer utility I can download?

Bullwinkle wrote:
It's sort of a long topic, but wires do not transmit electricity at the speed of light...

OK this explains a lot. I had always assumed that wires did transmit at near light speed, and that it was only the mechanics of hard drives acting as a barrier to that speed. Why don't they transfer at light speed, and roughly how fast DO they transfer (relative to light speed)?

Bullwinkle wrote:
It is conceivable that, 100 years from now, solid state memories might become more economical than hard drives. But it won't happen until some major technology shift.

The cost issue has always puzzled me as well. I realize new technology will always cost more in the beginning, but shouldn't it be much cheaper to manufacture a SSD than a hard drive, and shouldn't that be reflected in retail prices relatively soon?

Bullwinkle wrote:
But even a RAM drive is not all that much faster than a hard disk in most applications because it is limited by the performance of the SATA bus. So you spend a ton of money for a minuscule amount of drive space that loses its memory when it loses power

2 questions on this...if the SATA bus were not a limiting factor, how much faster would a RAM drive be than SATA?

And, how do you use such a drive if it loses memory when you turn it off? You have to transfer all your data over to a hard drive every time you shut the computer off???

Bullwinkle wrote:
With XP/Vista/Win7 you will need to add either software or a RAID card complete the job, B

You mean I could create a RAID array with nothing but software?? That really makes it much more tempting...I needed a card to do it on my old computer.


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Bullwinkle
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Shant wrote:
I've got 2 500g SATAs in the computer and I was tempted to make a raid array but I put redundancy/insurance well above speed

I have the same concern, which is why I build RAID 0+1 (RAID 10) arrays for my machines. RAID 0+1 is just what it sounds like... striping for performance and mirroring for redundancy. It uses 4 drives (minimum), but it doubles your performance while giving you more or less instant duplication of your drives.

Shant wrote:

I'm assuming defective drives out of the box are much more rare with SSD, no?

I don't know any statistics, but hard drive infant-mortality failures are not super-common. There will be the occasional early failure with SSDs, too.

Whether it takes a week, a month, or a year, or a decade for a failure, you still need backups. There is no permanent way to store data without re-copying it from time to time. Even optical disks develop errors after ten years or so (sooner if abused, obviously).

Shant wrote:

I'd built a raid array on my old computer, and perhaps things have changed now, but at the time if one drive failed, your data's gone.

It depends on the type of array. Most professional arrays are far more reliable than single drives because they use some form of redundancy. There are several types, but RAID 1, 5, and 10 are the most common redundant types. The truth is that RAID 0 increases the likelihood per megabyte that you lose data (and maybe all of it) so, yeah, if the data is important then you want a notch up in sophistication.

I mentioned RAID 0 and 10 because they give you the highest performance increase without a fancy (expensive) controller.

Shant wrote:
he solution would just be to get another drive and keep that one to backup the raid array

Exactly. Inexpensive external drives rock for that.

Shant wrote:

I'll definitely do that eventually because you're right, that's a cheap way to damn near double the speed. You can't beat that.

Right. Even better, it tends to be a bottleneck on most PCs, so doubling your performance there will make the computer "feel" much faster at many tasks. Assuming some kind of Core 2 cpu, I would say that disk performance is the second or third most significant performance enhancement, after adding lots of memory and maybe a decent video card with a lot of memory on it. Memory is 1,000 times faster than disk, so memory is Numero Uno.

Shant wrote:

I built the new one and literally in 6 hours I went from one to the other.

OK, that's a good comparison. But, wait...

Shant wrote:

it took me about 30-35 minutes to convert an mpeg movie to DVD. Now it takes about 7-8 minutes.

That's a 500% performance improvement in handling large data! What's your beef, man?!

That's a huge speedup. There are a few things that contribute to it, but memory and disk are the biggest factors. CPU and system bus after that.

Shant wrote:

I suppose another decade and I'll be able to shave 15 seconds off my startup time...

My netbook boots Windows XP in about 15 seconds, and that's with a puny Atom CPU and a slow-as-molasses 1.8 inch disk drive. Boot time can vary widely, but the more striped-down your PC is, the faster it will be.

What operating system are you using?

Shant wrote:

I ran data transfer tests on my old system's hard drives. I had several hard drives in it, 2 of which were striped RAID 0. The newest non raid drive transferred at around 50MB/sec. The raid array transferred at 80mb/sec, so you're right it's nearly double the speed.

Nice improvement!

Yes, it would be interesting to compare your new PC. It will be interesting to see how much faster than 50MB/s you get, but you should get a noticeable increase if you are going from PATA (old ATA) to SATA.

Shant wrote:

On paper my new drives are supposed transfer data 6 times faster than my old drives. I'm betting it's well less than double.

You will never know the full story. It is nearly impossible to test the transfer rate of a decent disk drive at home... you would need some expensive gear to get anywhere near the drive's limit. Remember that your system bus and disk controller are slower than the drive itself. Plus, every time the spindle has to stop, seek a new sector, then start again, slows it down.

So, yes, doubling your overall speed would be terrific. You will see the greatest improvement by copying a large, unfragmented file, from one drive on one controller to another drive on another controller. Even with that test your motherboard's system bus may be the limiting factor.

Shant wrote:

hmmm...I can't find that utility at the moment...do you know of a simple HD data transfer utility I can download?

Hmmm... do you mean a benchmarking tool, or something to copy the complete contents of one drive to another?

Check TomsHardware.com or ZDNet.com for a benchmarking tool, then pay attention to exactly what you are benchmarking. If you want to copy an entire drive, take a look at Acronis TrueImage. It is commercial software (maybe $50 for home computers), but it makes upgrading disk drives and making perfect backups a cinch.

Shant wrote:

Bullwinkle wrote:
It's sort of a long topic, but wires do not transmit electricity at the speed of light...

OK this explains a lot. I had always assumed that wires did transmit at near light speed, and that it was only the mechanics of hard drives acting as a barrier to that speed. Why don't they transfer at light speed, and roughly how fast DO they transfer (relative to light speed)?

Didn't I just say it is a long story?!

OK... you know how they have highways in L.A. that are eight lanes wide? 8 lanes @ 60 mph with an average of, say, 100 feet of road length per car ... they should be able to carry something like 400 cars per mile per minute when they are pretty full but not bumper-bumper. Now picture trying to drive 8 cars from the office parking lot to El Torito 1 exit away (let's call it 1 mile just to make the numbers easy). So 8 cars / 400 cars per mile per minute = 1.2 seconds to get from work to lunch, right?

🙂

As you can see, it's more complicated than just the width of the pipe. You have on-ramps and off-ramps to deal with, traffic, red lights, etc. It could take ten minutes to do that drive, depending on factors that have nothing to do with the bandwidth of the highway.

When electricity flows through a wire it generates a magnetic field around the wire. Building that magnetic field takes time. When you stop the flow of electricity, it takes time for the field to collapse. The field is a form of energy, just as the electricity is. Think of building the field as "filling up the pipe" with energy, and collapsing the field as "draining the pipe". This filling and draining (called "inductance") is pretty slow compared to the speed of light. In order to send a "1" down the wire, you start at 0 voltage, increase to whatever a one is (say, 3v), then wait until the field stabilizes so that the voltage at the receiving end of the wire is a nice, steady, 3 volts, then drop the voltage back to 0 again. But the collapsing magnetic field continues to generate voltage at the receiving end until the field collapses so, again, there is a time lag before the receiving end sees a nice, steady, 0 volts.

The inductance of the wire is comparable to the on-ramps and off-ramps of the highway.

But there is more... when you put two wires side by side, the magnetic fields interact with each wire and induce currents in each other! So one wire that is supposed to be at 0v receives part of the magnetic field from the next wire, which partially raises the voltage in the wire that should be at 0!

The beauty of digital signals is that we can throw out any signal that is not, say, at least 2.5 volts (1) or less than 0.5 volts (0). Anything in the middle is "noise" and we just ignore it, waiting until we see a clear 0 or 1. That waiting takes time. How much time depends on many factors, including temperature. So, in order to make sure that we get a good, clear, signal, we wait a little extra. Now, in order to move millions of those signals through a computer per second, we have a LOT of "red lights" and on/off ramps to consider, so computers use a "clock" to move everything in one complete step at a time. It's like having a red light at every intersection. When you get a green light you accelerate (charge the field), drive, then decelerate (collapse the field) at the end of the block, wait at the red light until the next clock signal, then go again. If you are late and miss your green light, then you may have to sit and wait through almost a complete cycle before you have a chance to go again (an extra WAIT state, in computer lingo).

Like traffic, if our signals collide they causes accidents (which show up as blue screens or other quirks), so we have to be ultra-careful that EVERY signal can get to it's next "block" on each cycle of the clock. That means more waiting.

All of this waiting is what makes travel through a computer slow. How slow? Slow enough that super-computer manufacturers used to use oscilloscopes and wire cutters to trim each wire to exactly the right length for that wire in order to minimize wasted clock cycles. It's VERY slow compared to the speed of light.

Does that make sense?

Shant wrote:

shouldn't it be much cheaper to manufacture a SSD than a hard drive, and shouldn't that be reflected in retail prices relatively soon?

Semiconductor manufacturers (and many other commodity manufacturers) set volume pricing based on a Non-Recurring Engineering cost (NRE) and a per-unit cost. The NRE is, roughly, how much it costs to design, tool up for, fab, and test the first successful batch. After that, the per-unit charge kicks in, which covers cost of making the silicon, testing and other processing, and a bunch of other recurring costs. So the NRE cost of a cpu might be $10 million and the per-unit cost might be $25. You have to sell a lot of them before the price to the customer gets anywhere near that $25.

In fact, long before the cost drops that far, a new CPU is released, and the customer starts paying for that NRE charge again.

Costs don't drop to their rock-bottom for a couple of years, at which time the unit is typically discontinued and replaced with something newer.

Now, as you say, semiconductor densities increase over time, which reduces per-unit cost and improves performance. But disk drive technology is constantly improving as well, so it isn't that easy for semiconductors to catch up to disk price/performance ratios.

In fact, there is more room for improvement in disk drives than in the current way that we make semiconductors. We are already making semiconductors so small that we cannot draw the lines with a laser beam because it is too fat! The semiconductor manufacturers have to fire individual beams of electrons to make a thin enough line (e-beam lithography). That, in turn, requires a tool that is essentially a small linear accelerator. If that sounds mondo expensive, you're right!

So expect disk drive price-to-performance to continue to improve at its current rate, while semiconductor price-to-performance is already slowing down.

In other words, until we have a MAJOR shift in the way that we make semiconductors, the price-to-performance for solid state memory will never beat hard drives. Eventually that technology shift will happen, but they've been working on it as long as they have been making semiconductors (roughly since the early 1960's) and they haven't come up with a good solution yet.

IBM has a computer that uses super-cooled lead (Josephson Junctions) instead of silicon semiconductors to make a super-dense computer the size of a grapefruit, but it requires a refrigerator the size of a building to make the liquid helium that chills it... it's not exactly home computer stuff. They made one, loaned it to the NSA, and that's it. For now, at least.

Shant wrote:

if the SATA bus were not a limiting factor, how much faster would a RAM drive be than SATA?

Good question. If we skipped the drive controller completely, then how would we attach our RAM drive to our computer? You probably know about "RAM disks" which are just software partitions in system memory that act like disk drives. Those things ARE fast -- 1,000x disk drive speed. But they have to use a controller as well -- the memory controller. The memory controller is much faster than the disk controller, but it cannot be put on a long cable. It pretty much has to be on the motherboard -- and right next to the chipset at that. Gotta keep those ultra-high-speed wires short!

So we could expand our memory controllers to hundreds of gigabytes, and that is precisely what 64-bit versions of Windows allow. Most computers built so far are limited to the 4GB that 32-bit Windows maxes out at. But newer machines are increasingly being developed that can take much larger memories. Modern servers can take 64-128GB of memory, or more... if you can afford it!

So the way to get balls-out performance from solid state memory is by increasing system RAM rather than by using SSDs. It will cost you, but it will be fast.

Shant wrote:

how do you use such a drive if it loses memory when you turn it off?

One way is, as you suggest, to load the drive every time you boot. You could use it for a swap drive, or maybe load up your game files on it and have an extremely fast "disk" while playing your game. But the disk would be "created" (by copying files from a hard disk) every time the system boots.

Another way is to use battery backup on the RAM drive. As long as you keep power to your computer, the battery backup will keep your data alive. But don't unplug the computer and put it in the closet for the summer, then expect your data to still be on the RAM drive when you plug it back in.

In other words, a RAM drive is a temporary storage device, not a real replacement for a hard drive or a flash drive. That's ok, because most folks cannot afford to have a RAM drive that is much larger than a USB key drive, anyway.

Shant wrote:

You mean I could create a RAID array with nothing but software??

I will give that a qualified "yes". Yes, you can. You may or may not need a different version of Windows to do it, but it can be done. Windows XP pro can, I think, do it, and it appears that Windows 7 pro can make RAID 0+1 as well. Interestingly, it looks as though all versions of Windows 7 can make a RAID 0 array, which is probably because Microsoft knows that it is their best chance to give their customers a cheap performance boost.

OK, now there is one more "catch". You can mirror (RAID 1) your system drive, but striping (RAID 0) is more complex. You need Windows installed to be able to build the array before you can install Windows on the array. So that means either two installations of Windows and a third (or fifth) disk drive, or a RAID controller. You could use any old disk drive from an old computer as the system drive to build the array, so that might be a solution for you.

See, I told you it was a long story!

Hope that helps.

B


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Bullwinkle
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After thinking about this a little more, here's the cheapest and easiest way I can think of to add RAID to your current box:

    [*:2d6iyd8f]Leave your current system drive as it is.

    [*:2d6iyd8f]Get a third drive identical to your second drive. Make sure that these two drives are on two different SATA controllers.

    [*:2d6iyd8f]Stripe those two drives as RAID 0.

    [*:2d6iyd8f]Put your swap files, software, and data on the array.

    [*:2d6iyd8f]Use an external USB drive to back up both your system drive and your array.

Total cost for this setup is around $200, and half of that goes to adding backup which you need anyway, for other reasons.

Notes:

    [*:2d6iyd8f]Any version of Windows 7 or Windows XP Pro required. Steve Balmer (Microsoft CEO) says, "skip Vista", and he should know. 🙂

    [*:2d6iyd8f]I am assuming that you already have at least 2GB of RAM and a video card capable of running Vista. If not, then fix those things first, before adding RAID.

    [*:2d6iyd8f]If you have less than 4GB of RAM, consider adding more memory (more than 4GB if your motherboard will handle it and you have a 64-bit version of Windows) before adding RAID. It's a cost-benefit tradeoff, and what will be faster for the way you use your computer is hard to predict without more information. But think about maxing out your memory (or maxing out your budget

on memory) as another excellent performance booster.

Tip:

    [*:2d6iyd8f]If you buy a new version of Windows, make sure it is 64-bits. Your CPU can already handle 64 bits (assuming it is Core 2 Duo or more, or AMD equivalent). Memory is cheap enough now that there is no reason to use 32 bits on a machine that you want to perform well.

B


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Shant
(@shant)
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Bullwinkle, you're the best.

Did Steve Balmer really say that???


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Bullwinkle
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Shant wrote:
Bullwinkle, you're the best.

Did Steve Balmer really say that???

Thanks for the kind words, Shant!

Yes, Balmer did say it in answer to a question at a conference just about a year ago.

To put it in context, the question was something like, "With Windows 7 coming up soon, should I hurry to install Vista now, or wait for Windows 7?". Balmer was talking about how soon Windows 7 would be released, so he responded to the effect that the questioner might as well wait. I believe that the words "skip" and "Vista" were in the sentence.

As you would expect, the press jumped all over that, and made kind of a semi-big-deal about Balmer telling the world to skip Vista. So it is part true, part tongue-in-cheek taking advantage of an awkward response to an awkwardly-timed question.

But Balmer is a public figure, so he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt. 😉

And a lot of people think he was right.

B


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SuperG
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PINBACK wrote:
At this time a very VERY small notbook with intergrated graphic and a mighty atom processor 😆 (bet you all green with envy 😆 😆 )so it looks like I will not be playing any games 😥

it's more mighty mouse, it's weak but very energy friendly. I missplaced my samsung N10. Have no clue where in house I put that little thing.

But then again the next little Netbook thingie or tad bigger must have at least a touch screen.


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fourteentoone
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CPU: Intel Core i7 950 - Quad-Core 3.06GHz, 4.8GT/s, 8MB Cache Processor

Memory: 12GB 1600MHz DDR3 Memory - Triple Channel Performance (6 x 2GB)

OS Hard Drive: WDC 500GB, Ultra ATA100, 7200 rpm, 16MB Buffer Hard Driv

Disk-intensive programs: 2x300GB WDC VelociRaptor Enterprise Class, SATA II, 10K RPM, 16MB Buffer - RAID 0 Array

Audio Data: 2x1TB WDC Enterprise Class, SATA II, 7200 RPM, 32MB Buffer - RAID 0 Array

Sound Card: Edirol FA-66

GFX Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260, 896MB, PCI-Express, DUAL-DVI Video Card

OS: Microsoft® Windows® 7 Professional x64 Edition

Oh...and a Macbook Pro 😀


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Mogymog
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My superiorly-awesome gaming rig.

CPU: AMD64x2 5000+ Black edition 2.6-3.0ghz (depending on which protocal you ask)

OS: Windows 7 64bit Ultimate

OS drive: 10yo IDE 40gb HDD

Other drive: 320gb SATA drive

Audio: Intergrated baby! oooh yeah.

GFX: 9600GT 512mb, PCI-e 2.0

Memory: 4gbs generic awesome ram.


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DarkOne
(@sscadmin)
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Topic starter  

Only two upgrades you need for your system Mogymog the gfx card and replace that 10yo drive 🙂 Integrated sound is usually fine unless you have the speaker setup for the surround.


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Mogymog
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Hey, don't be dissing on my 9600 man. This baby kicks butt. I'm find with 40+ FPS maxed up graphics on intensive games. I dont need the 100+ that the $400 5900 pumps out. And yeah, I would LOVE to replace my OS drive with an SSD, but saddly I don't crap out money and the like $200 for the 60gb drives is a bit much for me right now.

cides, not counting the SSD. I'm hoping by the end of this yeear to be able to make a new rig. A nice quad-core, with a really good cheap once since the 6-cores will be out in a few months quads are gonna drop like rocks. And maybe even an ATI 5800, if ATI can get off their butts and make a decent driver.

Though I would love it if my OCing was ever stable, but THATS not gonna happen. Stupid mobo, and stupid interfacing.


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Grimloon
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CPU: Q6600 @ stock

RAM: 4GB Corsair DDR2 1066

GPU: Sapphire HD5850 1 GB

HDD: 160 GB Maxtor SATA, 500GB Seagate SATA, 2 x 74GB WD Raptor 74 GB SATA

Audio: Realtek Azalea onboard, Harman/Kardon Soundsticks II

Input: Saitek Eclipse III, Razer Diamondback, X52 Pro

OS: Windows 7 Professional x64

Screens: LG W2286L, Cibox LE2262, Dell U2410

What Bullwinkle said about RAID is true - RAID 0 gives excellent performance boosts at the cost of parity, RAID 0+1 (aka RAID 10) gives both but at the cost of additional drives. RAID 5 is an option though if your controller supports it (IIRC Intel ICH9R and ICH10R do, not sure about the AMD chipsets as it's been a while since I used one). Basically get 3 drives the same size, set them up as RAID 5 and you'll have both striping and a degree of mirroring at the cost of one drive's capacity - e.g. 3 x 500 GB in a RAID 5 array gives you 1 TB of storage. 2 stripes of data and 1 for parity/error checking. It's probably the most common enterprise solution and definitely has it's merits.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 support a certain degree of flimflammery though - you can have a RAID 0 volume software mirrored to another drive on the system as long as the capacitiy of the 3rd drive exceeds that of the RAID volume. You lose a little performance on write speeds but read speeds and access times are still very responsive. Admittedly, a 10k RPM drive helps on that score but they're seriously LOUD! I love my Raptors but on occasion the incessant chattering gets a lttle bit irritating. The 500 GB I can't hear unless I have everything muted and am listening out for it.

RAID, in all it's forms, offers a number of advantages but always at the same disadvantage - cost! SSDs are pretty much the same - the price of the NAND flash memory used to make them has gone through the roof at the moment so they're very much an expensive luxury. The response times are absolutely ludicrous, as are the read and write times but at the cost of a serious dent in the wallet region. A 30GB OCZ Vertex (allegedly a nice drive) runs in at around £110, a 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 is about £65. For £20 more than the SSD you could have a 2 TB RAID 0 volume, £85 more and you have a RAID 5 array - at 2TB in size as opposed to 30 GB. Speed, safety and storage combined.

One thing I will disagre with Bullwinkle on though - you don't have to have Windows installed to create a RAID volume. It's dependant on what your RAID controller supports. If I switch either of my RAID controllers to RAID mode in the BIOS rather than AHCI then I have the option of building a RAID volume before the system even thinks about looking for a boot drive. This is on a motherboard with ICH9R as well as an additional RAID capable controller. Yes, you can definitely build the volumes in Windows (probably easiest) but many chipsets support hardware RAID which is definitely preferable on both ease of setup and speed basis. The speed isn't really that important with today's systems unless you're running software that gives you a CPU bottleneck at which point anything less that your CPU has to deal with is a bonus. Not common nowadays but it used to be very prevalent on the average system that normal people could afford.

Please accept my apologies for the wall of text in what is supposed to be a "Post your build" thread, I'm just a hardware geek at heart. I tend to be a touch vociferous when it comes to certain subjects 😳


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Taymar
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Yes . . . he waffles on a bit.

CPU: Q6600 @ 2.45 GHz

RAM: 4GB Corsair DDR2 1066

GPU: Nvidia GeForce 8800GTX

HDD: 500GB Seagate SATA

Audio: Realtek Azalea onboard

Input: Logitech MX518, Saitek X52

OS: Windows Vista Home Premium x64

Screens: LG L1900R LG L227W

Not that fastest machine on the planet but it does the job.


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DarkOne
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Topic starter  

I configure all my raids in bios/raid controller and not in windows. I find it a bit easier to work with myself than using all the windows tools. And for todays games if you have a quad, 4gb ram and a DX10 card you can run almost anything on full settings.


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Mogymog
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Speaking of raiding.. Anyone else ever have problems with OCing anything? Such as, Windows, or windows based applications not registering the OC? Like my CPU is default OC at 2.8. Windows, and other programs like CPUZ, and such only register it as 2.6. BIOS says 2.8, if I up it to 3.0, Bios shows 3.0. Windows and the lot still say 2.6. Anyone know a way to make it register right?


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Bullwinkle
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Grimloon wrote:

What Bullwinkle said about RAID is true ..

One thing I will disagre with Bullwinkle on though - you don't have to have Windows installed to create a RAID volume.

Thanks, Grimloon. I will add that my discussion with Shant was about adding performance to his existing computer on the cheap... which meant no additional hardware. In that case, Windows must be installed first, obviously.

However, if you have a RAID card or your motherboard has a RAID controller then, by all means, use it. As Darkone points out, a RAID controller makes installation simpler (although not necessarily higher performance, regardless of what the RAID vendor claims).

I have done a lot of RAIDing... from cheap to million-dollar systems. RAID is great, but the claims of RAID vendors tend to be strong on hype and weak on real-life-performance details. In other words, you will actually get higher performance without a RAID controller on many home systems! This is because your computer's CPU can calculate parity many times faster than a low-cost RAID controller can.

In my experience, RAID 5 is mostly good for redundancy (parity). Its theoretical performance advantages tend to be muted by communications issues such as bus saturation. That's why I recommended RAID 0+1 -- the performance increase is huge and instantly noticeable. The reason that RAID 0 is so much faster than RAID 5 is because each drive gets its own i/o bus (usually an SATA bus in home systems).

The conventional "wisdom" for RAID 5 is that more drives = more performance. In practice, the opposite is true for most home users. Low-cost RAID controllers have the best chance of creating a high performance system with only three or four drives configured in RAID 5 -- and that will happen only if your motherboard and/or controller card(s) have three or four available independent (non-shared) i/o channels (SATA channels).

Since RAID 5 usually requires a RAID controller, and RAID 0+1 requires only four i/o channels, the cost-benefit ratio is superior for RAID 0+1 for the average home computer tinkerer. However, a RAID controller is easier to set up.

Given the quality of modern disk drives, and the low cost of a large external drive, I would not be afraid to use RAID 0. Just make sure that you have a good backup strategy, because RAID 0 more than doubles the risk of losing your entire volume. But you really should back up anyway... and RAID 0 is "free" for many folks.

I cover SSD elsewhere in this thread, but the short version is that SSDs help some things (SEEK) but are much slower than disk for other things (continuous throughput for READs and, especially, WRITEs). There is little point in investing in an SSD drive if you seek overall performance gains because you just will not get it. However, some specific applications benefit from SSDs, such as Windows. But that has more to do with Windows than it does with SSD drives. Note that I am suggesting installing Windows on the SSD with most programs and data on a hard drive.

Note also that there is nothing special about SSD drives except for their i/o controller. The actual memory is the same as high performance flash memory. So a cheap flash drive installed with the proper strategy could produce most of the performance advantage of an SSD without the additional cost of the SSD's controller hardware. The flash memory would be limited by the bandwidth of the USB bus but, for random access of many small files, the SEEK performance boost could be greater than the loss due to bus saturation. Also note that random access of many small files is the only circumstance under which either SSD or flash offers any performance advantage over hard drives.

Microsoft's ReadyBoost for Win7 and Vista is designed to take advantage of the high SEEK performance of flash memory without the expense of adding an SSD drive. ReadyBoost is not perfect for all applications, but it is the easiest and most cost-effective way to take advantage flash memory's fast SEEK times without the expense of adding an SSD drive.

ReadyBoost tips:

    [*:bwcep4sy]

Keep Superfetch turned on.

[*:bwcep4sy]Use high performance flash memory (usually mail-ordered rather than store-purchased -- it is usually cheaper when mail-ordered, as well).

[*:bwcep4sy]Format your flash drive(s) with exFAT (Win7) or NTFS (Vista). (You may have to enable write caching on the flash drive in order to format with NTFS. Note that enabling write caching means that you cannot unplug the flash drive without unmounting the drive first (Safely Remove Hardware).)

[*:bwcep4sy]More flash = greater performance (up to 3x the size of your PC's RAM). The ReadyBoost tab in the drive properties dialog only tells part of the story.

RAIDing SSD drives helps the overall throughput limitations, but, as you say, the costs quickly exceed most people's home budgets! 🙂


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SuperG
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Well I bought a 5870 1GB to upgrade my older gamerig. But doesn't work with my AM2 mobo from MSI. Chipset init problem. Bios update didn't work. Bought a mobo mem CPU set to make a major upgrade. Just want to be DX11 ready and play AVP in full fidelity.

GA-890A-UD3H

Phenom II 965 Black edition.

8GB Dominator memory.

And it works.

And a new Windows 7 Home premium

So 3Quater I might buy a GTX480 for Ci7 3D gamerig.

Have also a third PS3 on the same monitor.


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Grimloon
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Bullwinkle wrote:
Thanks, Grimloon. I will add that my discussion with Shant was about adding performance to his existing computer on the cheap... which meant no additional hardware. In that case, Windows must be installed first, obviously.

Ah right, sorry! Wrong end of stick firmly grasped and both feet inserted into gob (again! 😳 ) I usually forget that I look at these matters from an enterprise/enthusiast perspective.

I tend to buy parts based on what they will still have available in however many years time e.g. P35 chipset with ICH9R controller so up to 6 channel SATA RAID is a given. Add a secondary dual channel SATA controller and I was sold! (GA-P35-DS3P) I also bought the Q6600 G0 on the same approach - I don't need any more oomph now but I can OC the nuts off it if necessary. It's more a case of "What will I have in 2 years time?" rather than "How big is my e-peen now?" The exception to the rule is video cards - 12 to 18 months @ ~£200 a pop.

@SuperG - I very much doubt that you're going to have to upgrade from a 5870 any time soon. I'm running a 5850 at 5,040 x 1,050 where supported (gotta love Eyefinity - X3 looks awesome!) and haven't seen a slow down yet at max settings. AvP runs sweet as, you just have to remember to move the chair away from the desk a bit more as it's a touch of overkill in surround unless you're sat far enough back!


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SuperG
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I got 3 PC.

HD2900XT -> 58701GB

GTX285+8600GT -> GTX4?? ( +GTX285 ) PHYSX

X1800XT

And there monitors stand next to each other. The nV rig card can use the D-sub input off the other monitor. The 120hz samsung has just one input. So my 5870 just use one monitor.

But first I wait and see what Fermi brings. Not in a hurry.


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Grimloon
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SuperG wrote:
I got 3 PC.

I have a few more than that in various states of repair 🙂

I no longer have my IBM 8086 XT but I still have a 486 DX2 80 running MSDOS 6.2 for older games - I think I bought it something like 16 years ago? That was the last pre built system I ever bought, self build from there onwards 'cos warranties are for wimps! It has 2 12 MB Voodoo 2 cards in SLI as well as a 4MB VESA card - that was definitely the Mutt's Nuts way back when 😀


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IronHound
(@ironhound)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 337
 

😳 I have 5 laptops at the moment. Loaned two, and two are in storage. When I'm really happy, I like to sit back and add the money it took to purchase all five. Brings me back down a notch...

Oh.

My super computer (for its time.) Was a Gateway FX, which I didn't feel like taking to the desert, so I left it for the fam. Mistake. Currently I'm using a Macbook.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.26 GHz

Memory: 4 GB

HDD: 250 GB

Gfx Card: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (PCI, 256MB VRAM)

Snd Card: Intel High Definition Audio (??? No idea where to find on my mac. System Profiler is complicated.)

Input/Joystick: ..Logitech mouse?

Not the most powerful computer ever, but it certainly runs the three games I play on it. 🙂


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